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Civilized Murders: An Interview with Author and Artist Hugh Fleetwood

Hugh Fleetwood's Self Portrait (partial, 2005/6). Used with the permission of the artist.

Hugh Fleetwood’s chilling and dark mysteries deal with psychologically-damaged characters, ones whose actions are usually the result of some personality disorder often undisclosed to everyone but the reader.

British author and painter Hugh Fleetwood's life began at a pivotal moment, waiting at a train station in Munich. After many spells in different places around the world, the writer, on a whim, decided on a train leaving for Florence, Italy, with the resolve of never going back home to England again. The rash decision proved fortuitous; upon arriving in Italy, Fleetwood would soon experience an entire world of new discovery opening up to him in a way it never could have anywhere else. Landing a job teaching English got him by while he diligently worked away at a novel he hoped to soon publish.

Fleetwood would indeed manage to have his first novel published after a few years (A Painter of Flowers). But it wasn't until the publication of his second work, The Girl Who Passed for Normal (1973), that Fleetwood really came into his own as a writer of significance. His novel was at once puzzling and deeply insightful, a bone-chilling descent into the dark, nethermost regions of the mind which dealt with parental obsession, fractured identity and disintegrating sanities taking place in the affluence of bourgeoisie society. The Girl Who Passed for Normal would go on to win the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1974, granting the writer wider notice and significant returns on his novel, which would enable him to continue his work in fiction.

Fleetwood's material more often than not deals with psychologically-damaged characters, ones whose actions are usually the result of some personality disorder often undisclosed to everyone but the reader. Mired in pitch-black humour, his stories are peopled with characters afflicted with moral dilemmas; we see the sordid humour in their personal and professional lapses, and our primary focus is on how they manage to manoeuvre their way out of their predicaments.

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